Where were these teachers when we were in school?
A D.C. Physical Education teacher started a bike riding club as a way to connect students during the pandemic, The Trek Blog reports.
Alex Clark is a Health and Physical Education teacher at Dunbar High School in Washington, D.C. Like many teachers, when the pandemic hit and subsequent closings of schools, Clark began to wonder “what was going to happen to [the] kids?”
During one of his regular bike rides, he had an inspiring moment and began thinking about what it would take to bring his students on a bike riding journey with him.
“Like a lot of people, I liked bikes as a kid. I’d picked up biking as a hobby at the start of the pandemic, and I was having a great time with it. And if I do something that’s a great experience, I feel a need to share it with my kids,” Clark told reporters.
The idea was perfect. Not only could he continue with health and physical education training, but he could also provide an opportunity for students to continue connecting while social distancing. Clark is the founder of Prime Ability, a program geared at building community and inspiring youth through fitness and wellness-centered events. That’s when he decided that a bike riding club could be another avenue to reach students and he could do it under the Prime Ability umbrella.
Clark then started a GoFundMe, calling on the community to help him get bikes and gear for his students. Within a week, he had raised more than $5,000 and garnered a ton of donations.
“I bought as many bikes as possible and used the rest of the money to get a U-Haul to pick up bikes people in the community wanted to donate. This was a true it-takes-a-village moment, where the community came together to make this happen. We got donations from more than 400 people I’ve never even met,” Clark recalled.
He eventually launched the “Prime Ability Biking Program,” using a local grant to purchase the rest of the helmets and gear. Then, he had to actually convince his students to participate, garnering their interest by sharing with them his H.E.A.R.T. philosophy, an acronym for humility, effort, ambition, respect, and teamwork.
“I ask[ed] my kids: do you have enough H.E.A.R.T. to step outside of the comfort zone and be something other than what people are telling you to be, or are you trying to fit what people say you should be?,” said Clark.
The first day of his program, despite the rain, 25 students showed up. After they rode together to the Washington Monument and back, Clark made them promise that next week, they would each bring a friend. During the second ride to Black Lives Matter Plaza, 40 kids showed up with 80 coming the following week. Now, the Prime Ability Biking Program hosts two to three rides weekly, boasting more than 100 student participants on nice days.
Photo Courtesy of The Trek Blog
“Kids are setting personal goals and seeing the accomplishment. Now kids say, ‘ Not only is this fun, but I’m also able to hang out with my friends outside of school.’ It’s how they spend time together,” Clark said.
He uses the rides as a way to teach leadership skills, placing emphasis on peer mentorship and discussing future plans like college. Clark has also expanded the program to include a racing team which will begin training for the fall racing season this summer. He credits the support of parents, volunteers, students and the community with making this all happen. He hopes that students will continue to participate in the program, even after the pandemic subsides.
“On a bike, you look at places from a different perspective. No matter where you are in life, you can hop on a bike and go to your peaceful place,” said Clark.
For more information about the “Prime Ability Biking Program,” visit the website here.
Photo Courtesy of The Trek Blog